The Grudge describes a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage or extreme sorrow. The curse is an entity created where the person died. Those who encounter this supernatural force die; and the curse is reborn repeatedly, passed from victim to victim in an endless, growing chain of horror. The following events are explained in their actual order; the original film is presented in a non-linear narrative.
The Saeki family lived happily in suburban Tokyo, but housewife Kayako Saeki fell in love with her college professor, Peter Kirk, obsessively writing about him in her diary. Her husband Takeo discovered the diary. Believing Kayako was having an affair, he became mentally disturbed and brutally murdered his wife. He then drowned his young son Toshio - who witnessed his mother's murder - in the bathtub, along with the pet cat. Takeo hid the bodies in the house before Kayako's ghost murdered him. Peter came to the Saeki house to speak to Kayako after receiving a letter from her, only to find her corpse. Shocked, he fled, killing himself the next day. The Saeki family rose again as ghosts due to the curse, notably Kayako, who appears as an onryō ghost.
The present timeline starts a few years later, with the Williams family moving in from America. While husband Matt is thrilled with the house, his wife Jennifer and dementia-ridden mother Emma feel uncomfortable. Matt and Jennifer are killed by Toshio. Yoko, a careworker, arrives at the house to find Emma alone, and encounters Kayako, who attacks her. Concerned about Yoko's disappearance, her employer Alex sends another careworker, Karen Davis, to take over the care for Emma. At the house, Karen is shocked when she finds Toshio and Mar, and contacts Alex for help.
Alex finds Emma dead and Karen in a state of shock after her encounter with Kayako, and summons the police, including Detective Nakagawa. Nakagawa and his partner Igarashi find the bodies of Matt and Jennifer in the attic along with a human's lower jaw. Matt's sister Susan disappears after being attacked by Kayako, and Alex is killed too. Karen begins to be haunted by Kayako, informing her boyfriend Doug of the situation. She researches the house, eventually confronting Nakagawa, who explains three of his colleagues investigating the Saeki deaths all were consumed by the curse. That night, Nakagawa tries to burn down the house but is killed by Takeo.
Karen races to the house upon learning Doug has gone there to look for her, experiencing a vision in which she sees Peter visiting the house and finding Kayako's corpse. Karen finds Doug paralyzed by fear, and attempts to flee with him, only to witness Kayako crawl on Doug, who dies of fright. Karen spots the petrol and manages to ignite it just as Kayako is about to kill her. Karen is whisked to a hospital, but learns the house survived the fire. Visiting Doug's body, Karen realizes she is still haunted by Kayako.Sarah Michelle Gellar as Karen Davis, an exchange student
Jason Behr as Doug McCarthy, Karen's boyfriend, who attends the University of Tokyo
KaDee Strickland as Susan Williams, Matt's younger sister
William Mapother as Matt Williams, who relocates to Tokyo for a promotion
Clea DuVall as Jennifer Williams, Matt's wife
Grace Zabriskie as Emma Williams, Matt's mother, who suffers from severe lethargy with mild dementia.
Bill Pullman as Peter Kirk, a teacher working in Tokyo
Rosa Blasi as Maria Kirk, Peter's wife.
Ted Raimi as Alex Jones, the director of the care centre where Yoko and Karen are stationed.
Ryo Ishibashi as Det. Nakagawa, a detective
Yoko Maki as Yoko, a Japanese care worker assigned to care for Emma Williams.
Yuya Ozeki as Toshio Saeki, Kayako and Takeo Saeki's ten-year-old son.
Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki, a married woman who is attracted to Peter Kirk
Takashi Matsuyama as Takeo Saeki, Kayako's husband
The Grudge opened at 3,348 theaters in North America. The film generated $39.1 million in ticket sales in its first weekend (October 22–24, 2004). Ticket sales declined 43% on the second weekend earning $21.8 million, thereby becoming the first horror film to top the Halloween box office since House on Haunted Hill. The film made US$110,359,362 in North America alone and a total of $187,281,115 worldwide, far exceeding the expectations of box office analysts and Sony Pictures executives. Sony also stated production costs of less than $10 million, making it one of the most profitable movies of the year. The film is recognized as the second highest grossing horror remake of the past 40 years behind The Ring, however in front of horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and One Missed Call; the former two had successful franchises and were expected to be far more successful whereas the latter is also an Asian horror remake and did far less in terms of box office. It is also second in Japanese remakes but seventh in the highest openings for an October and Fall release, being beaten by family movies.
The Grudge has received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 39%, based on 157 reviews (with 61 out of 157 film reviews counted fresh), with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "There's some creepy imagery to be found, but not much in the way of logic or truly jarring scares". On Metacritic, which uses an average of critics' reviews, the film has a score of 49 out of 100, based on 32 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Classic FM's film critic Simon Bates deemed it the scariest film he had ever seen.
The Grudge was released on VHS, DVD and UMD on February 1, 2005, as a standard version of the film with only a few special features. On May 17, 2005, the unrated director's cut of The Grudge was released on DVD in North America. The release included several scenes that were cut to achieve a lower rating from the MPAA, as well as others which were removed for pacing and plot reasons. This version of the film was used as the theatrical run in Japan. The release also contained new deleted scenes and commentaries, director Takashi Shimizu's original Ju-On short films, "4444444444" and "In a Corner", and more. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in Germany in 2008 and in the US on May 12, 2009, the same day that The Grudge 3 was released on DVD. It was made available to purchase on iTunes in 2008.
The Grudge made $9.24 million from DVD sales in its first week, debuting at #2 in the sales chart behind Ray. It has made an estimated $20 million since.